Investigators look at mosques web of global ties
• More arrests may be on the way as officials plumb bin Laden, Al-Qaida connections
Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Farid Adlouni offended many members of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club by defending Osama bin Laden.
Adlouni appeared before the club as a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Portland, a mosque in Southwest Portland that's also called Masjed As-Saber.
Today, the mosque is at the center of a federal investigation into whether some of its members helped fund bin Laden's Al-Qaida terrorist organization. The mosque's spiritual leader, Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, was arrested by the FBI's Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force on identify fraud charges Sept. 8.
Another member of the mosque, Ali K. Steitiye, is expected to be sentenced on federal weapons charges Wednesday. Sources familiar with the investigation predict that future arrests will reveal why the task force is focusing on the mosque.
During his 2001 presentation to the Lake Oswego Rotarians, Adlouni described bin Laden as 'a warrior' speaking out against injustices committed against Muslims for the past 80 years.
Although no one in the club knew it, Adlouni had more than a passing familiarity with bin Laden and his call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States.
By the time Adlouni spoke to the club, he had had extensive contacts with a member of bin Laden's terrorist organization and shared a house with two radical Muslim writers who preached that Western civilization must be destroyed.
According to The Oregonian, Adlouni has had many dealings in the last six years with Wadih El-Hage, a bin Laden operative who helped plan the Al-Qaida bombings of American embassies in Africa.
Among other things, El-Hage called Adlouni 72 times and faxed him a fund-raising request and a report on Afghanistan in 1996 and 1997. Adlouni also transferred money from a personal bank account at El-Hage's request in 1996 to help pay for equipment purchased by bin Laden.
In 2001, El-Hage was convicted of conspiracy and perjury in the earlier U.S. embassy bombings. Adlouni was cited Ñ but not charged Ñ as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
Adlouni has not been charged with any crimes.
In addition, Adlouni shared his Southwest Portland home with writers for a former Muslim magazine based in Pittsburgh that called for a holy war against the West. Mulhim M. El-Tayeb and Khalid I. Ayed lived with Adlouni from 1996 to 2001. Before that, they wrote for the radical magazine Assirat Al-Mustaqueem (The Straight Path).
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the magazine was glorifying the jihad against the West and asking readers to support it as early as 1994. Five years later, El-Tayeb wrote an article for the magazine urging readers to 'keep jihad alive.'
The Portland Tribune has been unable to reach Adlouni, El-Tayeb or Ayed for comment.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors will argue Wednesday that Steitiye should serve 37 months on federal weapons charges Ñ 10 months longer than federal sentencing guidelines call for.
Steitiye, a convicted felon, was arrested by the joint terrorism task force last October and charged with illegally possessing a firearm. He was convicted of the charges in June. Police searched his Southwest Portland home and found four Social Security cards, a fake green card and a calendar with the date Sept. 11 circled in red.
In a 17-page memorandum filed with the court on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Weinhouse argues that Steitiye deserves more time because he also had in his possession four fully loaded 30-round magazines, more than 700 additional rounds of ammunition, banners and decals supporting the Hamas terrorist organization and $20,000 in cash that he and his wife could not explain.
When Steitiye appeared in court last October, leaders and members of Masjed As-Saber packed the courtroom to show their support.
'If somebody makes a mistake, they need to be treated the same, no matter what religion they are. This is what America is about: equality and freedom,' mosque President Alaa Abunijem told the Portland Tribune two weeks ago after Kariye was arrested.
Mosque spokesman Talal Abdulkarim issued a statement Monday calling much of the media coverage of the investigation 'guilt by association.'